Arts Advocacy Update CII: “Cash for Your Trash” Edition

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The content below is from Americans for the Arts’ Arts Watch email blast of September 16, 2009. (Subscribe to it here.)

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Connecticut: New Stamford Media Center Celebrates Jerry and Maury
The Stamford Advocate, 9/14/09

“Stamford welcomed syndicated daytime talk show hosts Maury Povich, Jerry Springer, and Steve Wilkos to the city [on September 14], marking the official opening of the Stamford Media Center at the Rich Forum. Just a little more than a month after the three shows began filming in the city August 10, the three hosts and about 75 Stamford community members and politicians gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the theater. Tracie Wilson, vice president of programming and development for NBC Universal, said the event was NBC’s way of recognizing the community and its help in providing a smooth transition for the network. ‘Everything happened so quickly after we first met in January (2009),’ Wilson said of the move. ‘Everyone from the state politicians to local community members have welcomed us, and we’re excited it’s all working out.'”
Well, at least someone is driving the economy.

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Pennsylvania: Philadelphia School District Renews Focus on Arts Education
Philadelphia Daily News, 9/15/09
“Virginia Lam, music education specialist for the School District of Philadelphia, said the school district has hired 60 new music teachers this year and is planning to hire three more. She said the renewed focus on music and art education is part of Superintendent Arlene C. Ackerman’s Imagine 2014 plan to improve the quality of education in all of the city’s schools. But Jason Rodgers’ work in four North Philadelphia schools is part of an especially exciting mission for the school district. Lam said the district wants to create talent centers in schools that had lacked many extras for years.”
The truth is, we need more people like this to stand up and demand what children need. Depriving children of exposure to arts education will leave them dull and distinctly uncreative, which will spell disaster for the nation.

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North Carolina: Wachovia Wells Fargo Foundation Assists Opera Carolina
dBusinessNews, 9/13/09
“Opera Carolina, the leading professional opera company in the region, announced that The Wachovia Wells Fargo Foundation has donated $17,500 to partially replace the opera’s annual learning event contract, which underwrites Opera Express, the company’s in-school educational touring company, in the Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools (CMS). This year’s CMS budget eliminated learning event contracts, the primary funding source for Opera Express in CMS elementary schools…The Wachovia Wells Fargo Foundation grant replaces one-half of the 2009-10 contract, and Opera Carolina is actively engaged with other corporations and individuals to secure the remainder over the next few months, ensuring Opera Carolina’s commitment to arts education for CMS students continues as in the past.”
And I would bet that Opera Carolina will secure the rest of the money they need. The bank has done a great thing by setting an example. Here, here.

Oregon: Regional Arts and Culture Council Sets Local Grant Support Record
The Oregonian, 9/15/09

“The agency’s Work for Art campaign generated $665,863 this year, a 19 percent increase from the previous year, a startling rise given the big recession that is guttering fundraising efforts for nonprofits, almost across the board. The program encourages local businesses to make it possible for their employees to donate to [the Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC)], which then matches the donations with public matching funds. And then, RACC announced its general support grants to 42 local arts groups-$1,589,710, which is six percent more than last year and the most in the RACC’s 14-year history. The local governments that fund RACC deserve much of the credit, because they held their level of support steady, but the increase comes straight from the Work for Art program.”
Beyond the obvious good news here, one question: Is there such a word as “guttering”?

California: Long Beach Museum Faces Enormous City Funding Cut
L.A. Times Culture Monster Blog, 9/15/09

“The Long Beach City Council is expected to pass a budget [on September 15], cutting the funding of the Long Beach Museum of Art-and the museum isn’t expecting a last-minute reversal of fortune. Instead of the $569,000 it received in the fiscal year that ends September 30, the museum has been tentatively penciled in for $169,000, based on a recommendation last week by the council’s budget oversight committee, and adopted by a 6-3 vote of the full council. That’s more generous than the elimination of all funding that Mayor Bob Foster had proposed as payback for the museum’s failure to pay the $3.06 million that the city had to fork over this month to retire expiring construction bonds for the museum’s 2000 renovation and expansion. Whether the museum can sustain a $400,000 cut without having to lay off employees and close a second day a week could depend on whether donors are able to ramp up their gifts to offset the loss, Ronald Nelson, the museum’s executive director, said.”
More to the point, I think, what could possibly pull this museum — and all of the arts in California — out of its death spiral? Must the arts in California be absolutely gutted (guttered?) in order for it to be reborn?

Louisiana: New Orleans Sculpture Park Spending Criticized
NOLA.com, 9/14/09
“For the second time in a month, plans by Mayor Ray Nagin’s administration for renovating Armstrong Park to include a $1.2 million collection of sculptures came under criticism at a public meeting [on September 14]. Close to 100 people attended the meeting at the Treme Community Center. Although a few expressed support for the plans, several said they think the neighborhood and the city have more pressing needs than a group of statues honoring famous New Orleans musicians and cultural landmarks. Others, including City Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson, criticized what they said has been a lack of public input in the decision to install statues in the park and in the selection of the honorees and the sculptors. Several speakers said the city should create more recreation facilities for children and young people in the park, not spend money on sculptures.”
Here’s my question: Why do the sculptures cost $1.2 million? I mean, in New Orleans? And, my gosh, there are only eight of them! Here’s a long excerpt from the story:

“We don’t need statues,” said Treme businessman and former state Rep. Louis Charbonnet III.

Instead of concentrating on the relatively small tourist-oriented park area in front of the Mahalia Jackson Theatre of the Performing Arts, Charbonnet said, the city should spend money on the blocks behind the theater and the Morris F.X. Jeff Municipal Auditorium that were razed to make room for the theater and today are used only for parking.

“They took people’s land, people’s houses, people’s culture,” Charbonnet said. “Let’s give something back to the people” by turning the vacant blocks into green space and recreation areas for the residents of Treme. “I say scrap the statues,” he said.

Naydja Bynum, president of the Historic Faubourg Treme Association, asked for a commitment from the administration not to proceed with the statues, but Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Cynthia Sylvain-Lear said she could not make such a promise.

Acknowledging that the city does not have a master plan for renovating the entire 32-acre park, Sylvain-Lear said there are no plans to replace the parking lots with more green spaces. But she said it is important to proceed with planned upgrades such as improving lighting and signage, repairing lagoon bridges and installing more benches.

Two of the eight planned statues, of jazz greats Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet, already are in the park, though they will be moved to new sites. The others, yet to be created, would honor gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, trumpeter Buddy Bolden, Mardi Gras Indian chief Tootie Montana, brass bands, the old French Opera House and Congo Square.

Texas: AT&T Sponsors Downtown Dallas Arts Complex
The Dallas Morning News, 9/15/09
“The city’s landmark performing arts complex that opens October 12 in the downtown Arts District won’t have Dallas in its name but will have a new ring to it. In an agreement announced [September 15], the $354 million facility will be known as the AT&T Performing Arts Center. ‘AT&T’s sponsorship not only provides vital support that advances the center’s educational, cultural, and civic mission, but it also frees us to focus our energies on raising the remaining capital funds, building our endowment, and raising additional funds toward programming and operations,’ Mark Nerenhausen, president and CEO of the center, said in a prepared statement.”
Nice call. Get it?

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And now, two announcements from Americans for the Arts…

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Arts Canvas: The View from the Field
by John Abodeely, Arts Education Manager, Americans for the Arts
From September 21-25, two dozen arts education experts from around the country will blog daily as part of a new Americans for the Arts project called the Arts Education Salon.

Each September, thousands visit our site, taking the start of the school year as an opportunity to ask questions about their children’s arts education.

So the topic of this blog event will serve not only arts professionals but also citizens and concerned parents. Our esteemed bloggers will be talking about steps each person can take to ensure the children of their community have access to a great arts education.

Our bloggers will include members of the Arts Education Council of Americans for the Arts; Lucia Brawley, activist, actress, and writer for the Huffington Post; emerging leaders Jenna Lee and Kim Willey, both of Washington, DC; Mike Blakeslee from MENC; state advocacy leaders; state department of education staff; teaching artists; local program experts; and, other folks from all over the country.

But they’re just the start. You-and specifically your responses to their posts-are what this online event is truly about. That’s where you can weigh in, offer your own opinions, and present yourself as an expert for readers around the country. Solutions do not come from the top down-they come from peers, colleagues, friends, and fellows well-met.

So take ten minutes out of your morning routine at work each day September 21-25 to find out what everyone’s saying. You won’t regret connecting with your peers about this topic, I guarantee that.

To find out more about the Arts Education Salon, or to read other blog posts, please visit Americans for the Arts’ ArtsBLOG.

Americans for the Arts Councils Seek New Members
Americans for the Arts Network Councils are volunteer, working bodies that augment and inform the work of the organization. The Arts Education, Emerging Leader, and Public Art Councils are all seeking nominations for three-year term from January 1, 2010-December 30, 2012. Candidates must be professional members of Americans for the Arts and the deadline for nominations is October 2, 2009. To find out more information, please visit http://bit.ly/councilelections.

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